Why Did They Nuke-A De Luca? - Variety

Does Michael De Luca's exit signal a tamer New Line Cinema under the AOL Time Warner merger? That's what Variety writer Charles Lyons wonders.

Here is an excerpt from his article.

He's been surely one of the most approachable of studio chiefs. Also the most empathetic and creative, which is why talent is drawn to him.

At a recent industry event, Michael De Luca ordered a drink, raised his glass to a female friend down the bar and toasted "life" and living it to the full. Moments later, he was affably engaged in three conversations at once.

Yet at 35, the Brooklyn-born, street-smart De Luca is temporarily Hollywood's youngest has-been. Last week, his long-time mentor, the irascible Bob Shaye, fired De Luca as New Line president.

De Luca had been with New Line for 16 years, starting as a fresh-faced 19-year-old in the story department, rising over the years to prexy.

In that post, which he held for nearly eight years, the exec came to symbolize the swaggering, high-risk New Line, a self-proclaimed anti-studio known for a shrewd eye for movies that clicked with a younger, hipper set. But following Shaye's lead, De Luca began building larger budgeted films and some of them, alas, have failed.

Insiders have speculated over the past two months about De Luca's possible departure, now the industry is wondering why chairman-CEO Shaye and president-chief operating officer Michael Lynne cut De Luca loose, how the studio will change without him, and what the exec will do next.

New Line, of course, is owned by Warners, which is now AOL Time Warner. And it's no secret that the new entity has demanded budget cuts from many of its subsidiaries.

New Line, like any studio, has found itself morphing: On the company's slate for this year and next are sequels to "Rush Hour," "Blade" and "Final Destination" -- a collection of films that bear little similarity to the genre pics New Line made a decade ago.

Among possible scenarios of change at New Line are the following:

  • The company will likely steer away from bigger pics and back toward smaller, niche fare -- the types of movies that first put the mini-major on the map (e.g. "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Ninja Turtles").

  • The studio will hedge its bets with safer fare and lower budgets. (Anything budgeted over $50 million will likely be verboten.)
  • Known at times to be an aggressive buyer of product, New Line will likely begin radically cutting back on such expenditures.
  • This past year, the studio shelled out $2 million for film rights to Dave Eggers' book "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"; several years ago the studio coughed up $2 million for a several-page treatment, penned by Joe Ezsterhas, that later turned into the evanescent Mike Figgis movie, "One Night Stand."
  • The company will make moves to distinguish itself increasingly from Fine Line, leaving the more challenging material for its arthouse label. New Line has already handed over to Fine Line such pics as "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," based on the play; and the untitled Todd Solondz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse") project.

Beyond such possible changes lies an even greater one: an image makeover.


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